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A new method for tackling toxic air pollution

Researchers from the PAS Institute of Physical Chemistry have developed a cheap and effective chemical compound capable of purifying the air from various toxins. The invention can potentially be applied to produce air filters for industrial plants, as well as gas masks or protective suits for factory workers exposed to toxic vapors.

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An international team is led by prof. Juan Carlos Colmenares from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The results of their work have been published in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

Innovative compound

Chemists combined two substances with each other:

  • graphite oxide (GO) – an organic compound capable of catching toxic particles,
  • titanium dioxide (TiO2) – an inorganic compound that, under appropriate conditions (photocatalysis), breaks down pollutants into smaller, harmless particles.

The innovation here was to use ultrasound to make the two counterparts co-operate.

Ultrasound – a helpful technique

The invention can fulfill its purpose if the particles are uniformly dispersed throughout the carrier (e.g., the fabric from which the suit is made). The graphite oxide layer should also tightly rest on the surface of the titanium dioxide. Our researchers managed to achieve this thanks to the so-called acoustic cavitation – that is formation and collapse of microbubbles in liquid under the influence of ultrasonic field.

"This effect can be compared to the object vibration exerted by a great deal of noise" – explains Prof. Colmenares and adds: “The microbubbles implosion in the solution generates high temperature and pressure. The ability to manipulate the physical and chemical conditions allowed us to combine the two counterparts.”

Water and soil

In the future, the innovative technology could help purify not only air but also water and soil. The reactive adsorbent could also be used to filter wastewater produced by paper mills and coke plants, and even neutralize chemicals dumped in the Baltic Sea after the Second World War.

But first, researchers need to find a method that will allow the nanomaterial to be safely deposited on selected carriers or substrates. The point is not to contaminate the water and soil with titanium dioxide or graphite oxide.

Source of information: PAS Institute of Physical Chemistry
Photo by Grzegorz Krzyżewski / PAS Institute of Physical Chemistry